The kingdom of Mwenemutapa grew explosively during the course of the 15th century through empire building techniques without precedent in southern Africa. These included voluntary enrolment of member states, who were rewarded with representation on the kingdom’s Great Council and buttressed by well-trained armies and an organized priesthood. Their power was cemented by control of lucrative trade in gold, copper and ivory. The Portuguese arrived at the start of the 16th century, establishing a trading post at Sofala, and later at Delagoa Bay. Their early attempts to wrest control of gold from the Mwenemutapa were defeated by disease, but in 1629 they overthrew the kingdom’s ruler and reduced it to a vassal state. The Dutch adopted a very different colonization model in their Capetown colony: colonists were allow to become ‘free burghers’ farming the land, and radiating outward from the port in pursuit of cultivable land and pasture.
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